from Namche to Thyangboche
of the Khumbu
that got us there
I'm awakened one morning at Dingboche by two sounds outside the tent: the mellow peeling of yak bells as the beasts that carry our loads wander among the sparse vegetation near our camp, and the sound of Wally Berg's voice pointing out the peaks around us to Eric Simonson. We've been in a cloud for a couple of days, so I rush to get dressed and have a look. They're all there in perfect, early morning sunshine: Pikalde, Taweche, Tamserku, Island Peak, and more. It's a wild and starkly beautiful setting.
The village itself is a long cluster of stone houses and walled in fields and pastures that stretches along a gentle valley. There's a couple of spooky-looking stupas sitting on the bare hill above our camp, draped in prayer flags, faded and ragged from the elements. I spent a lot of time wandering in those hills, and those stupas have stayed with me.
The weather's been bad, though, and we haven't been able to phone in a dispatch because the array of solar panels was buried in a couple inches of snow. In that condition, they can't charge the batteries. The satellite phone won't work without juice.
The news must get through, however, so last night a couple of us walked farther up the village by headlamp to a tea house, Sonam's Friendship Lodge. Turns out Sonam is married to our cook Ong Chu's sister, and the word was out that Sonam had a twelve volt system charged by a lone solar panel that runs one fluorescent fixture. This is the way it is in the Khumbu: people know each other, people help you out.
Sonam's got a reserve power source, what looks like a motorcycle battery, and says sure, give it try. We stick the phone in the window, apply the clamps to the terminals, and the phone lights up. We make the call, have a glass of hot lemon with Sonam and his wife and their lodgers, then stumble down the rocky path back toward camp. It's black as pitch, though, and we end up in somebody's potato field all those rock walls are confusing but eventually make it back and jump into our sleeping bags.